Wealth can be a blessing, but it can also be a cross to bear. This is because wealth makes us needy.
For example, as I walk around my house, I am quick to observe any items out of place. The picture on the wall in the bathroom is off kilter. I notice my hands as I adjust it and my fingernails need to be clipped. I sit in my ergonomic chair with my screen eye level and a footrest for my feet. I open my fridge packed with healthy, and not so healthy, food for me to eat. But it’s not enough…I still need more.
It’s Not Enough
I need my house to be the perfect temperature, a package to be on route (and on time), my clothes to fit in just the right way, and for there to be no miscommunications or difficulties in my day. When these don’t occur in just the right way, I am perturbed, unsettled, and irritable. I caught myself today wondering why these small things can so easily disrupt my happiness. I have realized that wealth has made me needy.
Having comfort and ease at my fingertips has not really made me enjoy my life more–instead, it has set the bar of happiness so high that it seems even more impossible to reach than it did before. I didn’t do this on purpose, and I certainly didn’t see it coming, though I should have seen the signs.
Almost twenty years ago, I went on a missions trip to El Salvador right after the large and devastating earthquake that leveled thousands of homes. We came to build temporary shelters in anticipation of more permanent dwellings to be built by the local church. As we worked alongside these families who lost so much, I realized that I was a little jealous of them. They had so little, yet they were happy. They spent time as a family enjoying each other’s company. They shared their food generously with us as a repayment for our kindness. I, who had so much material wealth, was confronted with my poverty of community.
Related Post: Let God and Let God
We in America have much in the way of possessions (even the poorest of us is still wealthier than a large percentage of the world), but we really are needier than most. Scripture also communicates this idea.
Boasting in Having Less
James addresses this topic in great detail in his book; particularly, the first chapter, where he states, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” James 1:9 ESV
This passage is odd because it appears that the lowly or poor man should “boast in his exaltation.” What does this mean? It means that the lowly brother is in a position that reminds him of the value of things that are eternal–he knows to not invest in the temporary. The rich man, however, is humiliated by his constant need for things to make him happy; things that will pass away like the shadows over the earth.
What can I do to protect myself from this mindset?
- Cultivate a willingness to have things “not right.” Don’t fight for your right to be comfortable. Instead, when things don’t go your way, see them as opportunities for growth.
- Interact with those who do not have all the material things you have. Whether this is by going on mission trips overseas or mission trips in our own country, go and be with those who have less. One of the dangers of living in a prosperous country is that we think most people are living in the same level of ease as we do. This is simply not true. Being able to see firsthand how most people live will both help you be grateful but also help you realize that you can be happy with much less.
When we shed the neediness caused by wealth, we open up a world of experiences and adventure. It is here that we learn to allow God, and not our wants and desires, to lead us.